AFTA view Feb 2017

JAYSON Westbury, chief executive AFTA

A new initiative for AFTA

News of the UK travel company All Leisure Group’s (ALG) collapse has not kicked off 2017 in the way we would have all liked it. While the circumstances around the true reasons for why this company collapsed may not be known for some time, the fall out and confusion about what happens when an overseas company in which Australian travel agents and Australian consumers have dealings with has posed some serious questions.

ALG was a participant in the ABTA bonding scheme which in part, a little like the TCF did should provide compensation to impacted consumers. Seems simple. However, things may not be as clear for Australian travel agents and consumers.

I think the big problem with these types of schemes is that when things do go wrong, the situation can get murky particularly for those who are not residents of the country in which the scheme operates.

At the time of writing this for travelBulletin the full details and outcome of how ABTA would approach the fall out in Australia was not known.

Of a bigger concern — and nothing new with this one — is the impact on the travel agents from this collapse as it relates to Credit Card Chargeback. As everyone in the travel industry is well aware, consumers have a right to place a chargeback on a travel agent when a supplier collapses. This has been the one aspect to the reform agenda that we have been working on that has not yet been resolved.

Fortunately, perhaps not quickly enough, AFTA is working on a solution for travel agents to this problem. As a result of the new Credit Card Surcharging laws passed last year there is an ability for a travel agent (the merchant) to include the cost of protection against chargebacks caused by a supplier.

At this stage in the process I am unable to be specific, but I assure all travel agents we will have a real solution that will be able to be covered by the credit card surcharge rates.

I think it is important at this time to mention this, even though I have not been able to provide details. Rest assured AFTA is well aware of this problem and working on a solution, but like all these reforms they take time to get in place, approved and operational.

In light of the ALG outcome, it would appear that 2017 is the year for this long standing problem for travel agents to be finally resolved.

Of course this will be an AFTA initiative which will mean that the travel agent (merchant) will need to be ATAS accredited and while we have an excellent penetration of travel agents in Australia who have voluntarily taken up ATAS accreditation there are still more that need to consider the importance of this and perhaps this new initiative will be the thing that gets them to join.

So welcome to 2017, a year that should be a good one for the outbound travel industry and hopefully successful for all.